From 19-23 September 72 referees & assistant referees from across Europe gathered at the Home of FIFA to attend a five-day referee seminar for prospective UEFA candidates for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.
The seminar was the third in a series of referee seminars held in 2016 aimed at sharing knowledge with men’s and women’s football officials from all over the world as they try to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the chance to referee at the highest international level.
“Our goal, as we had in two previous seminars, is to find uniformity and consistency,” said FIFA Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca, who officiated in two editions of the FIFA World Cup. “We want to share all the information a referee would need to prepare for the two biggest competitions, the World Cup and Women’s World Cup.”
Like the seminars in Doha (for AFC, CAF and OFC referees) and Miami (for CONCACAF and CONMEBOL officials), the UEFA seminar included both men’s and women’s officials. "Men and women have to work together, because we are convinced that this should be our philosophy," said Busacca. “We have seen very good results from being inclusive, especially in the tactical preparation. I see this as the way to continue and the best approach in preparing referees for FIFA tournaments.”
The seminar, which was split into focused sessions, covered physical fitness tests, theoretical sessions, video assistant refereeing and practical sessions with local players. The intensity and variety of the sessions provided strong examples of the increasing physical and mental demands of refereeing elite football.
“The deeper the knowledge of the game, the better the results,” said FIFA’s head of refereeing. “But complementing the mentality is the physicality. In the modern game, there are so many counter attacks at such speed. We need more agility and explosion."
“We want to use this technology to review clear situations, not cases of doubt,” Busacca said after attending the Video Assistant refereeing demonstration. “We want the referee to keep their personality and to have the power to take the decision first.”
England’s Marc Clattenburg is no stranger to the pressure of refereeing, having recently refereed the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final, the UEFA EURO 2016 Final and FA Cup Final, all in the space of a few months. “It was a fantastic honour and I learnt a lot,” said the Englishman of the experience. “But now I’m focused on working hard, trying to eradicate any mistakes I made last season and trying to improve my refereeing standards. That’s why it’s fantastic that these seminars are put on by FIFA. These seminars give us the opportunity to improve, to learn from others’ recent experiences at tournaments to find uniformity across all the continents.”
Clattenburg, much like the 71 other attendees, is fully focused on trying to take his refereeing to the ultimate stage – the fields of Russia in 2018 and France in 2019. “The preparation starts now," he said. "This course gives us the opportunity to start our work, to try and be selected, and to hopefully represent our nations at the World Cup and Women’s World Cup. It’s so fantastic to referee at the World Cup where you are exposed to players from all over the world with different styles and tactics.”
Efthalia Mitsi from Greece, who has been refereeing professionally since 2005, and who refereed at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada, echoed Clattenburg’s feelings. “It’s been really good to share our experiences and learn from each other,” she said. “There are always areas of improvement for every one of us, whether it’s tactical, technical, or physical. As a referee at this level it’s important to set new goals and to reach them.”
“We are like one national team,” Busacca told the attendees in his closing remarks. “When we go to such important competitions every single one of us have to be good. We have to be as one, one team, one family to ensure success at the highest competitions. We win or lose together.”